Desert creosote bushes provide shelter and shade for crickets, grasshoppers and other desert insects. The next, the desert can smell just like rain.” (quote above by Gary Nabhan from The Desert Smells Like Rain). While the creosote bush is inedible to most browsing animals, some small mammals such as the black-tailed jackrabbit consume the seeds and some species of rats eat the twigs. The wrinkled leaves quickly rehydrate and turn bright green. Many West Texans recognize the distinctive smell of creosote and associate it with rain. Video of the Day Today creosote, Larrea tridentata, is a dominant or co-dominant member of most plant communities in the Mohave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts. Creosote build up like this is a major cause of fireplace odors. When rains do come, the shallow, wide spread roots quickly take in water from the surrounding soil. If there is water in the chimney, it can cause an unpleasant musty odor. “Rain volatilizes that waxy coating which then produces a distinct, camphor-like odor which some desert dwellers call the smell of rain. They also burn longer. Any plant you see growing is there because it is the successful result of millions of years of evolution. These mysterious looking growth rings then become mounded up with sand in the center. It is a dark, flammable tar that is absorbed by the masonry inside your chimney. The soot smell is indicative of a creosote build-up in your chimney. The odor is usually worse in the summer when the humidity is high and the air conditioner is turned on. People like to describe it as smelling like rain! If you are familiar with the Chihuahuan Desert, you will recognize the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata) as ubiquitous. Rain is rare in the desert, and any plant has to be able to get as much of it as it can while losing as little of it as possible. Creosote comes from wood smoke. This creates an island of fertility that allows other plants and animals to live underneath, creating a rich soil that is full of nutrients for the creosote bush. Lone creosote invader in the sands of Death Valley helps us imagine the adaptation over many millennia. And a tea made from the leaves and sweetened with a little honey was said to greatly relieve kidney pain. Some of these common residents have been here continuously since the last ice age.”  Harold DeLisle, PhD. What Does Creosote Smell Like? Also check out some of our YouTube videos on “grasses and wildflowers of the Chihuahuan Desert.”. Galls may form by the activity of the creosote gall midge. With time, this ring expands outward as old branches die and new branches take their place, and eventually become separate bushes which are clones of the original seed. These tar-fog droplets often will condense and collect on the cooler interior walls of both the fireplace and chimney flue system. A few months ago, I came across a basket of small tins of Creosote Bush Salve at The Get Go grocery in Marfa and opened one up. Submitted by leslie walker (not verified) on Sun, 2015-05-17 18:34, Contact Us   |   Agricultural Research Service   |   ARS News and Information   |   Statements and Disclaimers   |   Freedom of Information Act. Wood creosotes are derived from the resin from leaves of the creosote bush (Larrea, referred to herein as creosote bush resin) and beechwood (Fagus, referred to herein as beechwood creosote). Creosote is from smoke that contains droplets of unburned carbon and is often referred to as tar-fog. There was a storm the other day, just a little thunder, wind, and rain here, but farther to the north, it was a storm. So whether you see the creosote bush as just another desert plant or find its aroma intriguing in the rain, we can all respect its tenacity, its ability to thrive where few of its peers can. That magical fragrance comes courtesy of larrea tridenta, or the creosote plant, which grows only in the arid Southwest areas of … The drug causes a host of troubling effects, including extreme agitation, aggression and insomnia. These desert peoples had a living relationship with this extreme environment which helped them thrive. It can also grow into a hemisphere, an upside down bowl shape that allows leaf litter and other organic material to collect beneath its branches. The odor goes right down the chimney and into the house because high air pressure outside forces air down the chimney, bringing soot, creosote… This type of creosote is formed as a result of the combination of: 1. Long Draw Fire Aftermath By Jeff Clark, Oregon BLM Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0, Creosote Flowers "Resinous" By Anne Reeves Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0, Chemical Structure of Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid By Edgar181. At the end of the last Ice Age, about 11,000 years ago,  as the climate became warmer and drier, the junipers who used to inhabit the lower regions of the Southwest retreated to the nearby mountains, and creosote appeared on the scene. As a child of the 1970s, I always deeply loved the smell of the garden fences, freshly painted with creosote. 1-800-350-2693 (for initial call only)  | Office:  928-282-0846, “The desert is unpredictable, enigmatic. Even in our urban cocoons, we are woven within complex ecosystems exquisitely adapted to our local soils, light, moisture and temperatures. It might also suggest that the wood you're burning is not sufficiently seasoned and has a high moisture content. The smell of creosote after a good rain is the result of many volatile oils, but mostly terpene (a compound found in pines), limonene (citrus), camphor (pines and rosemary), methanol (wood alcohol), and 2-undecanone (spices). If you have a small water smoker there probably isn't a lot you can do to hold in smoke or control how much gets away. ; Diffo, D.R., Jr. (1977) Creosote Bush: Biology and Chemistry of Larrea in New World Deserts. During drought, the wax covered leaves shrivel but do not die. His ancestral people knew the inherit purifying qualities of this plant on both the physical and spiritual levels. As with a smoke smell, a smell of soot from your woodburner could indicate a need to have your chimney swept. This musky smell comes from a coating on the Creosote’s leaves that helps it preserve water. In its purest form it … When I went outside the next morning it smelled like creosote. Whitford, Walt (2014) The Remarkable Creosote. Since the plant photosynthesizes only in the mornings when humidity is highest, it needs to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives during that time. Other tribes made a strong tea from the dried leaves to treat the common cold. 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